• Kieran Horn

Matt Taylor on Portsmouth game being on a Friday night + updates on Cheick Diabate & Ben Seymour

Exeter City manager Matt Taylor is hoping that a “better atmosphere” will be on show with the Grecians Papa John’s Trophy second round clash with Portsmouth being played on a Friday night.

The match that was initially meant to be played on December 21 was postponed due to rising covid cases in both camps and therefore rescheduled for the FA Cup third round weekend with both clubs not participating.

However, the contest was rearranged to be played on Friday evening, and while the date may have seemed odd at first, Taylor has explained exactly why that decision was made.

“It’s something (a Friday night kick off) we wanted to try,” Taylor said. “A lot of other league teams do it and it works well for them so let’s see how we get on.

“I don’t know how it looks and feels for supporters. Maybe you finish work and then go to the pub and then the game.

“I’m sure we’ll get feedback and if feedback is positive then there’s no reason why we can’t keep on trying it.

“It’s certainly something the club is looking to do further down the line. We want more bums on seats. We want bigger crowds and a better atmosphere. So, let’s try things when we can.”

The Grecians, like most clubs in the EFL, were hit with a severe covid outbreak meaning many of their festive fixtures were postponed and just to add to the problems, Taylor lost many key players to long-term injuries.

Sam Nombe suffered a hamstring tear while Pierce Sweeney and Alex Hartridge are both due to miss the next few months leaving City extremely light at the back, thus leading to Jordan Dyer and Cheick Diabate being recalled from their respective loan spells at Truro City and Bath City.

The latter was thrusted straight into the starting 11 against Sutton last Saturday and then put in a commanding 90-minute performance on Tuesday against League Two leaders Forest Green Rovers and Taylor believes the teenager has the potential to go very far in football.

“He (Diabate) has obviously had a positive start," he said. “Let’s be honest he probably wouldn’t have got this opportunity had it not been for the injuries and illnesses to the rest of the squad.

“That’s why we feel the loan system works for us in terms of our young players not directly getting game time with the first team but still playing competitive men’s football.

“He’s got fantastic attributes which we can continue to work with and develop. The thing that struck me was his character. It’s a pressured environment whether that’s Sutton and Forest Green away or Portsmouth at home, but he’s just taking it in his stride.

“He reminds me of some young players who I’ve worked with before with how he can just filter away outside noise and concentrate on what’s in front of him.

“He’s put himself in a position to be selectable for the first team which is absolutely brilliant because he may have spent the whole season at Truro so it’s important that we keep on developing him at a certain rate which matches his game.

“He’s certainly a player we’d earmarked in the past and we’re excited about working with in the future.”

Friday’s game would have likely been a chance for the younger players in the squad like Diabate to get some game time, but it could instead provide a good opportunity for established first team striker Ben Seymour.

The forward spent a month on loan at Yeovil Town in November last year but only played a combined total of 198 minutes across four games during his time in Somerset.

And with Nombe’s injury it could be a great chance for the 22-year-old to make a significant impact, but Taylor admits it may take some time for Seymour to get completely up to speed.

“He is coming back from a bad bout of covid," he said. “Of the 15 players who had it, Ben was one of the worst.

“We’ve got to be mindful of where he is body wise and fitness wise. It’s a shame because off the back of Sam’s injury and our lightness at the top of the pitch, he’s going to get opportunities and you want to be at your best physically above all else.

“He’ll be involved on Friday as will a lot of those players who are not necessarily on the fringes, but who haven’t quite had the game time, they feel they deserve.

“It’s now about making sure Ben gets an opportunity somewhere else or with us moving forward. The next couple of weeks won’t dictate that, but in terms of how he performs he’s got to keep on putting himself in a similar position to Cheick of being selectable.”